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Can I Become a Private Investigator with no Experience?

Yes, you can become a Private Investigator with no experience. How?

  • Through proper Private Investigator education and training.

Not through the short Private Investigator government licensing course, but through at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator training and education:

  • This can be online Private Investigator training classes or in an in-class training environment.

PI in black suit

In order to become a Private Investigator with no experience and meet Private Investigator requirements, you need to become educated on the complexities of the private investigation industry.

  • Learning the industry will also help you decide if you want to pursue the PI career

This is how to set yourself up to become a successful Private Investigator. Secondly, to become a Detective, you will need to become educated on how to perform investigations.

Learning the Private Investigation Industry

How to become a PI starts with learning the PI industry. To learn the complexities of the private investigation industry you will need to understand a few Private Investigator industry topics:

  • Regional licensing requirements for Private Investigators will teach you what you need to obtain your Private Investigator license before you apply for a Private Investigator Job.

  • To help you decide if you want to enter the career of private investigation you, will have to learn the common misconceptions about the Private Investigation industry.

  • Understanding the learning curve of a Private Investigator will set you up to become a successful PI.

What Will I Do as a Private Investigator?

Before entering the PI industry, it is useful to know the challenges encountered as a Professional Private Investigator. This will also help you make career decisions. Then you need to learn what you will be doing as a Private Investigator. Learning the areas of specialization as a Professional Private Investigator and types of clients and corresponding file requirements will help with this. You will need to learn how Investigators obtain assignments and hours of work to determine if this work environment is right for you.

How Can I Be Successful With No Experience?

If you are concerned about your ability to perform as a Private Investigator, learning what factors will determine your aptitude as a Professional Private Investigator and what makes a “good” Professional Private Investigator will be essential. It is also important to know the physical and health requirements and health considerations. Then there is equipment. Learning about equipment needed in order to get started in a career as a Professional Private Investigator is a must.

Furthermore, to become a Detective, you will need to educate yourself on communication devices and their role in private investigation. Lastly and most importantly, you must learn “The Investigative Mindset.” This will teach you how to think like a Private Investigator. After you learn these concepts, you will be well on your way to becoming a Private Investigator even without experience.

PI in back of van with binoculars

After learning the complexities of the private investigation industry, you will need to develop practical skills in various areas:

  • Desk Investigations

  • Pre-surveillance

  • Surveillance

  • Mobile vehicle surveillance

  • On-foot surveillance

  • obtaining evidence

  • and litigious reporting

To learn Desk Investigations you will need to understand what is a Desk Investigation, Desk Investigation nomenclature, corroborated/ circumstantial evidence, The Evidence Document, The Desk Investigators Mindset, Google Basics for North America, and social media search basics for North America. Surveillance will be the largest subject to learn. Under this field you should learn about setting up a proper surveillance vehicle, surveillance spot checks, and surveillance set ups for various investigative operations.

As a Private Investigator, you will spend the majority of your time performing investigations solo.

  • This is why learning single person surveillance is crucial.

Furthermore, you will occasionally work in surveillance teams, so you will need to lean how to perform surveillance with two or more surveillance operatives. Private Investigators perform a lot of their surveillance from a surveillance vehicle, but also on foot, you will need to learn this also. The entire reason Private Investigators are hired, is to obtain evidence. Obviously, learning how to obtain evidence, mostly in video form, is a must. As a Private Investigator, you will need to obtain quality video that is litigious and that will satisfy your client. At the end of all this, you will need to learn how to create an investigative report that will most likely be used in litigation. After you learn all of this, you will have no trouble becoming a successful Private Investigator.

It should be apparent now, why and how you can become a Private Investigator with no experience. Yes, the government licensing course is necessary but it will not set you up for success as a Private Investigator. You will always need at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator education. You will need to learn the PI industry, as well as how to perform. In fact, becoming a Private Investigator through proper education will set you up to become more successful than Investigators with many years of experience but who have not developed a strong foundation with proper Private Investigator education.

What You Need to Learn to Become a PI with no Experience

  1. Regional licensing requirements for Professional Private Investigators

  2. Common misconceptions about the Private Investigation industry

  3. The learning curve of a Professional Private investigator

  4. Personal challenges encountered as a Professional Private Investigator

  5. Areas of specialization as a Professional Private Investigator

  6. Types of clients and corresponding file requirements

  7. How Investigators obtain assignments and hours of work

  8. What factors will determine your aptitude as a Professional Private Investigator

  9. What makes a “good” Professional Private Investigator?

  10. Physical health requirements and health considerations

  11. Equipment needed in order to get started in a career as a Professional Private Investigator

  12. Equipment Map

  13. Computers, tablets and peripherals

  14. Common terminology

  15. NATO Phonetic Alphabet

  16. The Investigative Mindset

What You Need to Learn to "Perform" Investigations

  1. How Desk Investigations are performed

  2. Corroborated & circumstantial evidence

  3. What is evidence & how to structure it

  4. The Evidence Document

  5. The Investigative Mindset 

  6. Google as an investigative tool

  7. OSINT

  8. Daily Gear Protocol

  9. Data & evidence security

  10. Surveillance

  11. Surveillance vehicle

  12. Surveillance set-up

  13. Pre-surveillance research

  14. Communication protocols

  15. Clients perspective

  16. Active mobile surveillance two or more investigators

  17. Skill vs, luck and circumstances

  18. Risk vs. reward

  19. Subject identification

  20. Understanding & managing Heat

  21. Traffic conditions

  22. Driving methods for different areas or environments

  23. Filming best practices

  24. Organizational necessities

  25. Transitioning to foot surveillance

  26. Transitioning back to a surveillance vehicle

  27. Mobile foot surveillance

  28. Gearbag

  29. Required PI equipment

  30. Identifying the subject

  31. Clothing and props

  32. The physics or mechanics of foot surveillance

  33. Covert equipment & techniques

  34. On foot following techniques & best practices

  35. Transitioning in and out of buildings

  36. Video framing and quality

  37. Reporting

How to Get a Job as a Private Investigator With no Experience

Getting a job as a Private Investigator is quite easy in North America. Getting to a point where you can "perform well" will be a challenge. Many states allow you to work unlicensed under a fully licensed PI agency. So, even though the licensing requirements might be strict, just being able to work as a PI will be easy. Information regarding getting a Private Investigator job by working unlicensed is difficult to come by. This is why we have written extensively about this in our Novel Data PI Blog. Once you obtain the type of PI education we have discussed above you should have a high chance of obtaining a job as a Private Investigator, working under a fully licensed Private Investigator. Not only will you get a job as a PI, you will start to be able to perform professional investigations.

How to Become a "Licensed" Private Investigator, in Most Places

The process of becoming a Private Investigator is similar in most countries, states, and provinces: you need to meet basic PI requirements such as age, language proficiency, and other usual requirements of this nature. Furthermore, you need to take a government approved PI licensing course. In a lot of jurisdictions, there is a specific government body that controls licensed investigators. So, it is this government body that will have a list of approved PI licensing courses. Some of these can be online courses. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements and completion of the licensing course to the government body, you will get your PI beginner’s license. This is where your struggle will begin.

Your Private Investigator’s beginner’s license will be called something such as, “PI Under Supervision License.” You’ve guessed it, an “Under Supervision” license means you must work under the purview of a fully licensed PI. However, the term “Under Supervision” will be in namesake only. You will not be supervised or guided by an experienced Private Investigator. In fact, PI agencies are not economically structured to have mentor/ student surveillance teams. And that licensing course you took? It does not teach investigation, only what laws PIs need to be aware of. This is useful; however, new Private Investigators still need to know how to be successful working investigative operations.

This lack of guidance and Private Investigator education is why so many new Private Investigators burn out and quit and why many experienced Private Investigators are jaded. On top of this, PI clients with small budgets typically get the new unqualified Private Investigators, nobody wins in this situation. It is also not fair to small PI clients to use their files to haphazardly train new Private Investigators.

Now the time comes for you to work investigations with no PI experience or education. The licensing course you took focused on legal matters with no real practical PI subjects or topics. You will always be told by employers that “soon you will get some training,” which never happens. It took me over five years to figure out the industry and get good at a few specialized fields. During that time, I struggled and probably lost several hundred thousand dollars due to losing work opportunities from a lack of skill and education. What is sad is that this is a common story in the private investigation industry.

If you make it through this meat grinder of an industry with over 2400hrs of experience, you will qualify for a "full Private Investigator license." Some jurisdictions allow you to skip over needing to obtain 2400hrs of Private Investigator experience if you have a degree in a criminal justice type field. So, you get your 2400hrs of PI experience and or a relevant degree and you can get your full Private Investigator license. This basically means you can open your own PI agency. Hopefully, when you are hiring new Private Investigators, you will appreciate the importance of proper PI education.

Example: Private Investigator License Requirements


Restrictions: you can only work as a PI employee.


You must be 18 or older.

Criminal Record

You cannot have a criminal record.


You need to be a citizen and submit a copy of government ID.


You must be able to speak and write in English

Government Approved PI License Course

You will need to complete a license course approved by the government and submit proof of completion. This can be an online course.

Equivalent Education

Typically, a degree in a criminal justice type field will qualify you for a PI license.

Passport Photo

You have to provide a certified passport photo.


You have to get your fingerprints taken.


You will have to pay a small licensing fee.


The documents you submit can be sent via mail or online uploading.



Permissions: You can apply for a PI business license and work for yourself.

Private Investigator Under Supervision License

You must provide the government with a copy of your PI Under Supervision license.

2400 Hours of PI Experience

You have to submit proof of your PI experience. The easiest way is to submit your employee payment documents that show the hours you worked.

Private Investigator Business License(Work for Yourself)

You will have to provide your full PI license and maybe proof of PI experience and education.

Thinking of Becoming a Private Investigator?

“ICPI Level 100 online Private Investigator Training” is the ultimate blueprint to start your exciting and rewarding career as a real Private Investigator.

ICPI Level 100 will help you start successfully in this amazing new career, even if you know nothing about investigations.

Our investigative team has vetted out the best Private Investigator training and investigative methods so that you can jump-start your journey towards having the meaningful career you’ve always wanted, immediately.

This training PI system will provide you, a successful detective, with all the templates that you need to succeed. A clear path on becoming a PI, understanding the PI business, becoming a successful PI, and thinking like a detective- all the tools you need to make six figures being an investigative Operative.

To date, this online PI training system consists of over 100 informational slides, videos, exercises and quizzes that provide a step-by-step path on how to achieve your dream job as a Private Detective.

ICPI Level 100 takes about two weeks to complete with over 30 hours of high-quality training content that will make you a Private Investigator well on your way to becoming an expert in this fascinating career.


Get a certificate that "actually" matters. When you get certified by Novel Data in the 100 Level course, Private Investigator agencies will be aware that you understand the PI industry. This will give you a great competitive edge in the PI job market. Most PI applicants know very little about the PI job they are applying to. Not you. A PI hiring manager will not want to risk turnaround by hiring someone unfamiliar with the industry, they will choose an applicant who is familiar with what will be expected of them. With Novel Data's certification, that applicant will be you!

The Learning Curve of a Private Detective

A novice without experience in any of the Private Investigator fields or disciplines is an individual who has less than 2400 hours of experience and Private Investigator training. Once Detectives achieve 2400 hours of Private Investigator experience, they will have the confidence and expertise to work independently. When a Private Detective acquires over 10,000 hours of experience in a given field, they are considered to be proficient in that particular field or discipline. Due to the many disciplines in the Private Detective industry, it would take many years of hard work and effort to master them all. Most Detectives choose to gain experience and specialize in a few fields rather than trying to become experts in all areas.

A novice Private Detective with no experience, no matter how intelligent, must learn through experience. Private Investigator school is an excellent way to build a solid foundation; however, to become fully capable a novice Detective will need experience. The learning curve is defined by specific skills one can only obtain by working in the professional investigative industry.

An experienced Private Detective will have a better ability to predict situations and know what information to look for. A novice Investigator is more likely to experience tunnel vision of thought and action due to stress and other contributing factors. These factors will contribute to the novice missing details that a more experienced investigator would have spotted and leveraged to move the investigation forward.

The experienced Professional Private Investigator will have seen many typical situations in a particular field and will adapt their methods as they apply knowledge from past experiences.

In the Private Detective profession, you will never stop encountering new situations that will act as learning opportunities to increase your investigative knowledge and skills. If you ever arrive at a point in your career when you believe you can do no wrong, be prepared to be reminded that this is a lifelong journey. The Professional Investigator draws from the past, uses that information in real time to make calculated decisions and anticipates things yet to happen. Effective experience-based decisions will benefit the client and shape your reputation as an Investigator.

At the 10,000-hour mark, a Private Detective is considered a master in whatever field they obtained those hours. They will have encountered nearly every situation imaginable in that field and have a vast repository of PI experiences to work with. When a new situation does occur, the master Investigator will be able to apply the Private Eye knowledge gained from past experiences to the new situation. Furthermore, the master Investigator will not be susceptible to tunnel vision and will be able to think clearly in new situations, even intense ones.

About the Author

Private Eye Peter Sandru

Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 15 years as a Professional Private Investigator. Peter Sandru has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities. Peter has helped many students with no PI experience get hired and become Private Investigators.


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